Medicaid Expansion in Virginia Could Cut Down on Maternal Mortality Rates

Jul 9, 2018

When black women give birth in Virginia, they are far more likely to die as a result of the pregnancy than white women.

Black women in Virginia are more than three times more likely to die in childbirth than any other race, according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Steven Woolf at Virginia Commonwealth University says the reasons for this are complicated and interconnected.

“African Americans are more likely to be living with limited incomes, to have higher poverty rates and to be living in unhealthy neighborhoods. All of these increase the risk of diseases and risk factors that moms bring into their pregnancies.”

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Add to that gaps in access to health care, and it’s a recipe for the disproportionate maternal mortality rate. That’s one of the reasons why Michael Cassidy at the Commonwealth Institute is so excited about Medicaid expansion. He says Virginia now has a chance to do something about this lingering problem if the program is implemented the right way.

“When we think about the way in which Virginia should structure their outreach and enrollment efforts to make sure we connect to this population that is going to be critically important to make sure we close this key gap.”

Simply providing coverage is not enough, Cassidy says, because health care providers will need to address the specific challenges of black woman so they can access culturally responsive health care.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.